36

The War to End All Wars

World War I – 1900 > 1920

   

            At the turn of the 20th century, the West was feeling pretty good about itself.  It was on an unprecedented winning streak.  In the span of five centuries, except for a few little bumps in the road, it appeared to be perpetually moving forward, with no one able to stop its progress.  Nation after nation fell to its advances, so that by 1914, 80% of the world’s economy fell under the domain of one of the Western nations and over 60% of the planet was controlled by a Western power.  Their industrial production was unparalleled and their military might was unquestioned.  With each passing decade, more and more people entered the democratic process, creating governments and worlds in their own image.  As food production exploded, living standards improved and the medical industry found more and more ways to keep us from dying, life expectancy rates soared.  Free time and entertainment were no longer solely the birthright of a privileged few, as new forms of leisure became accessible to all segments of society.   We lived longer, healthier, more enjoyable lives and it appeared nothing could stop the West’s continued ascension.

            And then Europe blew itself up.

            It wasn’t enough that the West conquered the rest of the world, they then proceeded to turn their sights on each other, and it was this cannibalistic clash of civilization which forced the West to reevaluate their preconceived notions of superiority.  Maybe their way wasn’t the best way.  Maybe their way actually could lead to the destruction of all humanity.

            World War Isignaled the end of an era.  It was at the time known as “the Great War” or the “war to end all wars,” but it would not be either.  A greater war would follow within a couple decades, and, if anything, it became the war to start all wars, for the 20th century ended with the infamous claim to being the bloodiest century in human history.

            But how did it all begin?

            Well, there was no singular cause.  Each nation had a different reason for joining; each nation sold its people on a different motivation to embrace the war effort.  England was afraid Germany's growing industrial economy would throw a kink in their global empire.  Russia wanted a warm water port so they could readily bring supplies to their interior.  Bosnia wanted to be free.  Austria-Hungary didn’t want to let them.  France wanted a chunk of land back that they’d lost a few decades earlier.  Japan had their eyes on northern China.  Italy didn’t know whose side it was on, but it liked the idea of making itself bigger.  Argentina wanted to sell more beef.  And the list goes on and on and on.

            Each country grappled with a series of regional, ethnic, national and imperial questions, each threatening to injure their progress if not handled properly, but each promising to advance its status if approached prudently.  Though the specifics might have differed, they each fell into one of a few types of tensions that...